Thursday, April 9, 2009

Election Commission concedes Lok Satta plea

The Election Commission of India today conceded the plea of the Lok Satta Party that candidates contesting elections should be entitled to appoint as polling agents in a polling station even those who are registered voters in neighboring wards/divisions (in urban areas) or neighboring revenue villages (in rural areas) of the same constituency.

The ECI was responding to a petition the Lok Satta filed in the High Court.

The ECI’s instructions currently mandate that a person appointed as an electoral candidate’s polling agent for a polling station should be a registered voter in the same polling station area.

Questioning the instructions, the Lok Satta pointed out that in many pockets, the local landlords, slum-lords or criminal elements evoke fear among voters, and victimize the polling agents of rival parties. Even polling personnel are intimidated or coerced into submission. As a result, there will be no fair polling. In particular, this requirement would prove impractical to smaller, newly-formed parties or independent candidates and heavily favors entrenched parties and candidates. In turn, it would prove to be counter- productive to the very intent behind the appointment of polling agents on behalf of the electoral candidates. This requirement runs against the ECI’s mandate of providing a level playing field to all electoral candidates – the foundation of free-and-fair elections.

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